7 Budapest Restaurants With Top Modern Hungarian Food

The past two decades have brought welcome improvements to Budapest restaurants — slimmer menus, inventive recipes, and healthier ingredients are gradually replacing the gut-busting fare of the Communist era (still, there's a way to go). Note that many of the below places offer a weekday lunch prix fixe for a fraction of the regular prices. If you're curious about traditional Hungarian dishes, try these restaurants, too.

#1 Könyvbar & Restaurant

Könyvbár is an upscale restaurant within Budapest's Jewish Quarter. Head chef Zoltán Decreceni brings a Michelin experience to this snug, book-lined space, which has become a tourist favorite following praise from the New York Times. The food here doesn't easily fit into any mold: there are both Hungarian classics (goulash soup) and international foods (risotto with scallops) on the slim menu, which changes seasonally. What unites these beautifully plated dishes is how good they are. Take the fogas, once Hungary's prized fish, arriving on a bed of creamy cauliflower and ringed by crunchy and colorful slices of the vegetable.

#2 Bobo Restaurant

Curious about the top restaurants on the less traveled side of the Danube? Visit Bobo in Rózsadomb, an exclusive residential area but reachable within ten minutes from Pest. The restaurant's stated mission is to draw Budapest's Bobos (a term made popular David Brook's book, "Bobos in Paradise"), referring to people who harbor both bourgeois and bohemian sentiments. The restaurant is inside a beautifully refurbished 1885 estate, once the playground of the Hungarian aristocracy. The slightly formal vibes and steep price points — mains range €12-16 — put Bobo a step above Budapest's chic bistros, but it’s also more casual than hushed fine dining venues.

#3 Stand25 Bistro

When in 2017 Szabina Szulló and Tamás Széll (a European Bocuse d'Or winner and celebrity-chef in Hungary) announced they were leaving the Michelin-starred Onyx restaurant to venture out on their own, one didn’t need a business degree to predict success. The idea of Stand25 Bistro was to prove that Hungarian fare can be more than a gut-busting, high-carb, greasy affair. The restaurant's success was immediate: a well-to-do local crowd fills Stand25's tables each day.

#4 N28 Wine and Kitchen

N28, a casually elegant restaurant just off Andrássy Avenue, is the project of Márk Molnár, the son of Tamás B. Molnár, who is a revered gastro journalist in Budapest. Márk spent the better part of the past two decades as a chef working abroad, mostly in Spain, and the menu is a collection of Spanish and Hungarian dishes. N28 doubles as a boutique wine store, meaning that you can pair your food with an enviable selection of Hungarian wines, sourced from all the major local wine regions (Tokaj, Somló, Eger, Balaton).

#5 La Perle Noire

La Perle Noire is a high-end restaurant occupying the ground floor of Mamaison, a four-star hotel on a quiet section of Andrássy Avenue (peppered with residential villas and embassies, Budapest's Andrássy Avenue is often compared to the Champs-Élysées). Let's get the bad news out of the way: La Perle Noire's interior is anything but cozy — rows of dark furnishings lend a constrained formality to this oversized space. The good news? There's a green terrace overlooking Andrássy to escape the inside and offering an exclusive dining experience in the warmer months.

#6 Bock Bisztro

In 2004, Bock Bisztró was one of the first Budapest restaurants to give new meaning to Hungarian food following the decades-long decline during the communist era. Owner and executive chef Lajos Bíró showed that contemporary cooking techniques, top ingredients, and a little boldness can jolt the local favorites into the 21st century. That crunchy bits of celery root add welcome freshness to the goulash soup; that paprikash can be wonderful when enclosed in a delicate pastry crust; that a beautifully plated lecsó tastes better than one served carelessly.

#7 Paletta Budapest

Located a bit outside the city center in Budapest's District 9, Paletta is a modern restaurant emphasizing the food of Transdanubia, especially the region near Lake Balaton in western Hungary. They also draw inspiration from abroad, which is why you might find a "margherita DOP Balaton" or a "BBC cigánypecsenye" on the slim menu. Unfortunately, many of the dishes need a bit more work. Said barbecue pork (€12) was aggressively oversalted, and both the catfish soup and the "peasant tapas" appetizer seemed more exciting on the menu than on the plate.

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. To remain unbiased, I visit all places incognito and pay for my own meals and drinks. I also never accept money in exchange for coverage. But this means I must rely on readers to support my work. If you've enjoyed this article, please consider making a donation.